Loughton joins Redhage as Redbacks open season with a bang

THE Perth Redbacks could have the most experienced and accomplished frontcourt in SBL history to start the 2017 season with Alex Loughton signed to join Shawn Redhage.

Redhage and Loughton will team up for the Redbacks as the SBL season tips off on Friday night against the Rockingham Flames at Mike Barnett Sports Complex in Rockingham.

Redhage has signed with the Redbacks for the season on the back of retiring from the NBL after winning his fourth championship at the Perth Wildcats almost a fortnight ago.

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He has committed to the Redbacks after his 393-game NBL career and now for the first month of 2017 season, will be joined by old Wildcats teammate and more recent foe Loughton.

Loughton is a West Australian product who did begin his NBL career alongside Redhage at the Wildcats following his stint in Europe. The pair played together for two seasons in 2007/08 and 2008/09 before Loughton departed for the Cairns Taipans.

He has remained there ever since now clocking up more than 250 games in the NBL. He has been a captain with the Snakes, was a key part of their first two ever grand final appearances and sits third in their all-time games played list.

Now while the Redbacks await their full contingent to arrive for the 2017 SBL season, Loughton is in for some reinforcement. Coach Nik Lackovic is delighted to start the season with him.

"When I sat down with my staff and we looked at that right now we're waiting for pieces to arrive in the form of Lee Roberts, Michael Vigor, Marshall Nelson and Tyler Viskovich we wanted to surround this current group with another really good player and person who fits into our culture and system," Lackovic said.

"On top of that, he is a West Australian. When I looked at a short list of candidates to bring in for four or five games, Alex was right at the top of the list who fits in.

"I've known Alex, we have spoken previously and we are looking forward to letting him come in and have some fun back home in Perth. He understands what his role will be and it's more than just points and rebounds. He is going to bring a good balance to what we already have."

The chance to see Redhage and Loughton on-court together in the SBL will be remarkable. They spent two seasons as teammates, but they have also had plenty or run-ins over the years as opponents.

It's going to be quite the sight to see them together and Lackovic made sure Redhage and the other Redbacks leaders were happy with bringing Loughton in before making it happen.

"I can't wait to see him play out there playing alongside Shawn again," Lackovic added.

"I spoke to Shawn about it to get his thoughts and I discuss any plan we have openly with the leadership group, so we are all part of that decision-making process.

"I look for the feedback from Shawn and the other leaders to get their opinion on things. Shawn is excited as are the rest of the team about having Alex around."

Loughton is coming home to Perth for the stint with the Redbacks on the back of an NBL season where he brought up his 250th game in the league, and remained a strong contributor in the Snakes' run.

They finished second at the end of the regular season and while they lost in the semi finals to the Wildcats, it was a season that had to be deemed a success.

For Loughton, it's another season he enjoyed with the Taipans and he has loved every moment of being in Cairns and helping the club to their first two Grand Final appearances.

That came after his time in Perth at the Wildcats and he wouldn’t change anything about his journey to this point.

"It's been a journey where I am still chasing that elusive championship dream and I don’t have that ring and the photos to go with it, but if I was to stop playing right at this point I still look back with a lot of pride," Loughton said.

"It's the day to day journey and battle with the guy next to you that I remember, and when everyone buys into the team culture is what makes the journey so great.

"Having that mateship and putting in 100 per cent effort together means everything. Even though it's short of a ring, it's still what I believe is the crux of having pride of how you've gone about your business."

As for his NBL career, Loughton is hopeful of playing at least one more season with the Taipans in 2017/18. While that looks likely to happen following the retirements of Mark Worthington and Cam Tragardh over the past 12 months, it's not yet locked in stone.

He knows he is coming towards the end and he is mindful that he doesn’t want to play on too long and risk his long-term health and happiness with his family.

But he did make a strong contribution at the Snakes this season, his body was feeling as healthy as it has in a long time and all the signs are pointing towards at least one more NBL season as he now prepares for his stint back home in WA with the Redbacks.

"There are two kind of trajectories that sort of cross over where at this point of your career you will be playing less, and effectively contributing less on the court but I still feel like there's value in the things I bring off the court and with the team that has to be worth something," Loughton said.

"I try to be that positive influence and leader. But your body is going to decline and it's getting very close to that point where you can get a few more years out of it, but I want to make sure I'm still healthy the rest of my life. I've played in all the big arenas, we've been to Grand Finals and yes I haven't got a championship, but I am very aware that I don’t want to play on too long.

"I want to establish life after basketball so I know it's getting close to the end, but I still feel good physically. As long as I have the green light to do some things on the court that the coaches see value in, I'll keep playing.

"Some people say that you keep playing until they rip the jersey off your back and you play until you can't go no more. Some of those guys have millions of dollars but can't run anymore and can barely walk.

"I want to still run around with my kids so it would be a smart decision for me to make sure I'm still healthy when I retire. I want to be active the rest of my life instead of going until I have no cartilage left in my joints.

"I'll have a sound idea of when the time is right myself, either that or I'll get the tap on my shoulder and I will get off this rollercoaster. I have enjoyed the rollercoaster and it has been up and down, and emotionally very consuming. The people I have loved around me have also felt that emotional energies that it takes up good and bad."




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